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REVIEW:
G.I. JOE 12" DUSTY and Lt. TORPEDO
By Thomas Wheeler


With the revival of the G.I. Joe 3-3/4" characters in the 25th Anniversary (and beyond) concept, Hasbro has also opted to bring back the 12" G.I. Joe figures based on those characters. Of course, G.I. Joe originally started out in 1964 as a 12" action figure, so it is fitting that the highly popular characters of the 3-3/4" concept have a chance at the big size. For this review, I'd like to take a look at two of the entries in the new series, ones representing, essentially, distinctly opposite environments: DUSTY, the desert trooper for the Joe Team, and TORPEDO, the Navy SEAL best known for being outfitted in a diving suit. Let's start with Dusty...

You know, it seems to me that desert troopers had a hard time getting any significant presence in the original Real American Hero line. It wasn't until 1985 that the G.I. Joe team picked up a desert trooper, who saw a remake in 1991 when he was joined by a coyote named Sandstorm. Cobra, on the other hand, didn't even get a desert trooper specialist until 1991, when they enlisted the Desert Scorpions, and if you saw their file card, it was pretty much considered punishment duty.

The G.I. Joe team would not enlist another specifically-dedicated desert specialist in the original run of the line. Technically speaking, Duke turned up in 1993 in desert camo fatigues, an impressively designed figure in an era that wasn't especially known for military accuracy, and Flint was given the designation of "Desert Paratrooper" in 1994, but both of these characters were well established. 1998 would have seen a threesome of desert-dedicated figures, but they were scrapped before they could be fully produced. Cobra had no other desert specialists in the original run.

The reason for this, as I was told at the time by a Hasbro representative at one of the early conventions, was because arctic toys sold better. Both G.I. Joe and Cobra had no shortage of arctic specialists, as well as vehicles. To a degree, I can understand this. Snow is a lot more fun to play in than sand, rocks, etc.

Both G.I. Joe and Cobra have had more desert specialists since the line returned full-force in 2002, and that continues to this day. So perhaps it is not surprising that when the 12" G.I. Joes returned, the Joe Team's desert specialist was among the first to come out.

Not surprising, but I was certainly happy to see him. Unlike some of the other figures available in the 12" line, DUSTY has never before been rendered in this scale.

Dusty's real name is Ronald W. Tadur. This is a bit of a play on names on Ron Rudat, who is one of the most acclaimed G.I. Joe artists of all. Dusty was first introduced in 1985, and was featured quite prominently in the animated series especially. His high point, even if it didn't seem as such, was in the two-part episode, "The Traitor", which seemed to show Dusty defecting to Cobra. Of course, it was all part of a mission set up by Duke, but the way the episode played out kept the audience guessing for most of the time. Interestingly, when Dusty's real name was stated in the episode, it was given as "Rudat", rather than the reversed "Tadur."

Dusty would turn up in other animated episodes, especially those -- obviously -- that featured some measure of action in the desert. In the comic book, he wouldn't be as prominently featured, but he did shine in one particular adventure where he teamed up with Mainframe and a cocky local desert kid named Rashid, to take down an enemy base.

Figurewise, in the original line, Dusty had three different figures -- his original 1985 incarnation, a recoloration for 1988's Tiger Force, and an all-new version for 1991. He turned up on several occasions in the newsculpt line.

It probably wouldn't be accurate to call Dusty a major player. He's not as well-known as Duke or Snake-Eyes. What he's best known for, really, is being the Joe Team's primary, if not sole, desert specialist. If there's going to be some battle in the sand, you want Dusty along with you.

The 12" edition of Dusty doesn't really resemble any of his previous incarnations. It does, however, resemble a very effective desert soldier.

As with all of the figures in the current 12" line to date, Dusty is wearing a plastic-molded shirt. This was a practice started towards the end of the last run of 12" figures, obviously as a cost-saver, but it actually works quite well. The plastic has been given a molded texture to make it both look and feel more like fabric, and while the shirt itself, especially the short sleeves, may look to be a little excessively tight-fitting, enough "fabric wrinkles" have been put into the basic mold so it's not at all implausible looking, and the end result is very nicely done.

Dusty's shirt has been molded in a sort of gold-tan color. The G.I. Joe logo runs up the right sleeve in white, and the nameplate "TADUR", as well as "G.I..JOE" and a unit emblem can be seen on the main body of the shirt, in white with black letters or details.

Dusty has fabric trousers, very nicely made with a decidedly authentic-looking desert camouflage pattern. The trousers are tan with jagged brown camouflage. The trousers have two snaps and two authentic pockets on the sides. Not that you could carry much in them from a "real-scale" perspective.

Dusty's boots are very nicely crafted, molded in the same gold-tan color as his shirt, and with some very well painted details, including black soles, as well as black shoelaces. I know a gripe a lot about the occasional sloppiness of paint jobs that I encounter on action figures here and there, that could readily be rectified by the proper use of painting stencils rather than trying to paint figure details by hand. Well, here is a really good example of what proper painting stencils can accomplish. The laces are incredibly well-painted.

Dusty is wearing a green belt and hard plastic green knee-pads. Why the knee-pads? Take it from someone who's had to kneel down in the desert on occasion when taking some of the earlier pictures for reviews here on MasterCollector when I was trying to put various figures in natural settings -- kneeling down on the kind of rocky sand that comprises the desert around here is not a comfortable experience. Wish I'd thought to have knee-pads like these when I did that.

The belt has two removable canteens attached to it -- one thing you do not want to run out of in the desert is water -- as well as a pair of protective glasses. The belt is very nicely made with a sturdy buckle. The glasses have transparent gold lenses and a strap to fit around the head.

Dusty has a plastic tan helmet with a small piece of fabric attached to the rear, not too dissimilar from his original helmet in 1985. He's also wearing a piece of fabric that wraps around his head and covers his nose and mouth. It almost makes him look like a Cobra! However, this is purely protective gear. The desert is a harsh environment. The less contact you have with it -- especially breathing it through your nose and mouth -- the better off you are.

Dusty's headsculpt is superb. Very nicely detailed. Hasbro has some really masterful sculptors working on these figures. Interestingly, Dusty has been given dark blonde hair. It's certainly in keeping with the rest of his color scheme, but it's a new color for his hair. Granted, that's had some variance to it over the years all by itself.

It's impossible to determine what the hair color for the 1985 Dusty figure is, because his helmet is not removable. The 1991 Dusty had bright red hair, but I tend to think that was an accession to the brighter colors that were making their way into the toy line by that point, something Dusty's uniform did not have. A newsculpt Dusty in my possession has very dark hair, pretty much black.

Now, a prototype picture I saw of this 12" Dusty figure also had that color of hair. But here's the unusual point -- this Dusty also has a mustache and beard, something Dusty has never had before! Granted, there's no reason in the world he couldn't have grown one. Certainly it's not against G.I. Joe regulations to have facial hair. And figures have gone back and forth before. There are bearded and unbearded versions of Low-Light, for example.

However, the photo of the (I assume prototype) 12" Dusty with the very dark hair and beard -- just didn't look right somehow. I am assuming that someone at Hasbro agreed with this assessment, because the lighter color, the dark blonde, is a vast improvement. There's something about the headsculpt that, even if it looks different than any of the 3-3/4" Dusty figures, still looks very much like what one might imagine Dusty would look like, and the beard is not at all a hindrance.

Of course, Dusty is superbly articulated. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, finger groups, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. Most of the articulation areas have swivels as well as back and forth movement. I'm especially pleased to report that a common problem with 12" G.I. Joes from recent years -- excessively loose neck joints -- is not present here. Dusty has sturdy articulation overall.

His accessories -- the ones he's not wearing -- include a fairly authentic-looking rifle with a built in "missile launcher", that is the spring-action feature for the weapon. He also comes with a small missile that can be fired from the weapon.

These 12" figures do not have file cards per se, but there is character background information on the package back. For Dusty, it reads as follows:

Name: Tadur, Ronald W.
Birthplace: Las Vegas, Nevada
Specialty: Desert survival, combat, and reconnaissance tactics and skills. Chosen Because: He knows the desert the way you know the back of your hand. He knows how to survive in it, thrive in it, and how to use the harsh heat and dry conditions against the enemy.
Achievements: When Cobra hid a new missile base in the desert with no way in or out except by plane, Dusty led the team through days of burning heat and sandstorms to reach the base - and everyone was still alive, strong and ready to fight when they got there. And that base? It's history. Commander's Notes: Not afraid of anything. To him, every challenge is an opportunity. His survival skills and instincts are top-notch - in deserts and anywhere else on the globe.

The packaging is nicely done. Hasbro has created an innovative package design with cut corners that manages to showcase the actual figure very nicely so you can get a good look at it, as well as an extremely impressive rendering of the legendary G.I. Joe logo. The figure is displayed up against a very nicely done painting of a desert battle scene, with the painted image of another desert trooper standing behind Dusty.

Now, let's have a look at Torpedo, officially named LT. TORPEDO here.

In 1983, the G.I. Joe line of action figures, barely a year old, expanded their ranks not only numerically, but visually. Virtually all of the first-year figures of G.I. Joe shared quite a few common body parts, not to mention a somewhat common appearance. Largely restricted to various shades of army green, the line was a success, but the figures weren't the most visually stimulating around.

That changed significantly in 1983, as the team added new specialists that required far more individualistic appearances. Snow Job, the Team's new arctic trooper, obviously needed to dress in white. Gung-Ho, the Team's new Marine, wore an open vest apparently for the heck of it. And Torpedo, the team's new SEAL (Sea Air, and Land), the toughest of the tough that the Navy had to offer, was dressed in a diving suit.

Technically, Torpedo wasn't that visually dramatic per se. But compared to the all-green look of the 1982 line-up, he was pretty distinctive. The figure was entirely unique from a parts standpoint, with a breathing mask molded to his head, and outfitted in a fairly tight-fitting black diving suit with grey trim down the middle from the collar all the way down the legs. He was really something of a standout in 1983, and is still well-regarded as a superb diver figure for the G.I. Joe line.

There have been Torpedo figures since then. The original was remade and slightly recolored in 1997. Other parts were used to cobble together a sort of land-combat Torpedo that was sold with a multi-figure and vehicle set through Toys "R" Us a few years ago. There have been several newsculpt versions, none of them in diving gear. Which is rather ironic, considering that's pretty much how Torpedo is best remembered.

Well, thanks be, then, to the recently returned 12" line of G.I. Joe action figures! Here, Torpedo is wearing his diving suit, although "wearing" is a bit of an inaccuracy.

The first thing I want to make an observation about is Torpedo's face. I am concerned, here, that what I am going to say is going to sound rather racist. Please believe me, that is not at all my intention. I believe this is a legitimate observation. Torpedo's place of birth is Aiea, Hawaii. And with a name like Edward Leialoha, it's a fair bet he's a native, or at least mostly a native.

Now, the original Torpedo figure didn't really have a face. You could see his eyes through the diving mask, but that was about it. Subsequent Torpedo figures either used existing heads from other figures, or were comparatively nondescript, such as the newsculpt figures. I'm not saying these were bad headsculpts per se, but in more than a few cases they could've been used for almost anybody.

The 12" Torpedo's face is fully visible. He has a diving suit headpiece surrounding most of his head, but the diver's mask and breathing gear is an entirely separate piece, and his face is readily seen. And -- it really looks Hawaiian. Now don't chew me out or give MasterCollector a hard time. I'm not trying to make any stereotype or racial comments here. I'm just saying that I sincerely believe that the sculptors at Hasbro went to some extra lengths to make sure that Torpedo looked like he originated from the Hawaiian people. Please, consider it a compliment.

If anything, he looks a fair bit like what Torpedo looked like in the animated series, anytime we saw him out of his diving suit and in more ordinary clothing. Torpedo wasn't going to be wearing his rubber diving suit 24/7. On more than a few occasions, we saw him at the very least without the diving mask, and the animators, I'm sure well aware of Torpedo's place of birth, made the character look Hawaiian. That's been very nicely translated over to this figure, and it's an effort that is sincerely appreciated by this collector.

Now, despite the face being readily visible, Lt. Torpedo here is dressed in a diving suit. What Hasbro has done here is what they did with another diver specialist figure in the previous 12" G.I. Joe line, that was not based on the 3-3/4" characters, but was rather intended to present 12" action figures of authentic real-world military specialties. They molded the figure's body AS the diving suit. And that was certainly an improvement over the original method back in the 1960's.

When the original G.I. Joe came out in the 1960's, the whole idea behind it was to sell the basic 12" action figure, wearing a basic cloth uniform, and then sell a wide range of uniform and equipment sets that the figure could fairly easily be changed into. In all that time, with all of those amazing and impressive sets of figures, uniforms, accessories, and whatever else -- there was one unforeseen -- technicality -- that has pretty well become a part of G.I. Joe history.

When the G.I. Joe "Action Sailor" was produced, it was decided to create a rubbery diver's suit for him, and dress the figure in it. Sounds like a cool idea, right? So do a lot of things that don't always work out as well as one might hope. The rubbery suit was difficult to put on and take off the figure, and even worse, if it was left on for an extended length of time -- like, say, buried in the back of a toy box for a number of years or longer, it had the potential for discoloring the figure underneath, shrinking, cracking, melting, adhering to the figure.

In fairness to Hasbro, they never planned for their products to be kept for decades on end, turned into cherished treasures, and become a major part of pop culture nostalgia. Decades-long longevity simply wasn't part of the equation. I doubt that the diving suits frequently turning into the messes they did was part of the equation, either, but let's be fair about it.

Returning to Lt. Torpedo, the situation here is that the body is the suit. Or is the suit the body? Whichever. I'm reviewing a toy here -- not getting into existentialism. The arms and legs are the same as any other typical 12" G.I. Joe body. The torso has been designed to look like a diving suit. The musculature is not as tightly defined as if Torpedo were "shirtless", and there's a molded seam running down the front of the chest.

The only thing that Torpedo is technically "wearing" is a small tunic around his waist, which has a belt molded to it, and a seam which is technically a carryover from the torso. This also does a nice job concealing some of the more open articulation points of the upper legs.

The figure is molded mostly in black, although there is some very dark grey trim, far darker than the original 3-3/4" Torpedo figure, but pretty well mimicking the pattern of the original figure, in that it runs down the chest all the way down the legs. Additional markings include the G.I. Joe insignia on the upper right arm, and a small shark insignia on the chest with the word "Torpedo" underneath. These are both printed in white.

Now, the current crop of 12" G.I. Joe figures tend to have plastic molded shirts, and fabric pants with removable boots. Someone might think that since Torpedo's clothes are entirely molded to his body, that he is not as good a value as some of the other figures. Well, this isn't really a very fair assessment. What Torpedo may lack in fabric, he more than makes up for with equipment and accessories.

For starters, he's wearing a pair of removable flippers, which means that in the package, his feet had to be turned sideways. It looks extremely uncomfortable. The flippers are molded from a black flexible plastic and have straps in the back. They fit rather easily and slide off easily.

Torpedo also has a knife sheath on his lower right leg, plastic with elastic fabric straps. This is a good place for him to store the silver-bladed, black-handled knife that he's holding in one hand in the package.

Of course, Lt. Torpedo is going to come with diving equipment. For the most part, it doesn't resemble very closely the diving equipment that the original 3-3/4" Torpedo came with. To what degree this is a reflection of either more realistic equipment, or simply advances in diving equipment in the 25 years since the original figure came out -- or for that matter some available molds Hasbro had on hand -- I'm honestly not certain. But the equipment is very decent, and looks good.

Naturally, there's a diving mask, that fits over Torpedo's face on an elastic cord. There's a sort of half-vest he can wear, and an oxygen tank that interestingly enough goes on Torpedo's front -- not his back as one might traditionally expect. It has hoses that can be attached to the mouthpiece of the mask via a peg and strap, and the tank itself has two elastic straps with adjustable settings and little plastic buckles of the sort that one commonly finds on real-world backpacks and such these days.

Torpedo's weaponry, apart from the aforementioned knife, includes an interesting-looking rifle with an adjustable stock and a removable ammo clip. One would surmise he does not try to use this thing underwater. It has a spring-loaded feature, and can fire a missile that comes with the set.

Torpedo also comes with a non-functional but very nice enlarged version of his narrow spear gun. This was a very popular little accessory with the original Torpedo figure, and has come to be associated with the character almost as much as an UZI has come to be associated with Snake- Eyes over the years. I was sincerely pleased to see it included with Torpedo's very decent arsenal of equipment.

Lt. Torpedo is, of course, extremely well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, finger groups, waist, legs, knees, and ankles, with a multiple range of motion at most of his articulation points.

The package design for these 12" G.I. Joe figures is very nicely done, as I said earlier. The backdrop for Lt. Torpedo within his package is a rocky shoreline, that one might assume he has just climbed out onto, with waves beating against the shore, and some sort of construct looking like the framework of some sort of insane offshore oil rig or some such, off in the near distance. There's some graphics superimposed over this image, as if it is being viewed through surveillance equipment.

While there is no "Clip 'n' Save" File Card as such, there is a character background for Lt. Torpedo on the package back, and it reads as follows:

Name: Leialoha, Edward W.
Birthplace: Aiea, Hawaii
Specialty: Underwater Demolitions
Chosen Because: As a SEAL, Lt. Torpedo is qualified for missions on land, sea, or air, making him a valuable asset to any type of military operation.
Achievements: A SEAL's specialty is undersea demolitions, but it's his exceptional physical superiority that makes him the first choice when extremely challenging missions arise. One such mission was to render Cobra Island non-functional. Lt. Torpedo infiltrated the island by single-handedly disabling a Cobra sub on patrol near the island. He then breached the land-based guards and blew up the communications systems, which completely cut off Cobra command from their forces around the globe. Commander's Notes: He's a maritime warrior right to the core. Disciplined. Determined. Demanding. Dedicated. Committed to defending the values he has sworn to protect.

I should probably note in conclusion that this is the FIRST time that Torpedo has joined the ranks of the 12" G.I. Joe world -- and Hasbro certainly got it right. The figure looks exactly what one would expect, and want, a 12" version of the G.I. Joe Team's first and still #1 SEAL operative to be.

So what's my final word here? I was very pleased to add these figure to my G.I. Joe collection, and if you have any of the 12" G.I. Joe figures based on the 3-3/4" characters from over the years, then you will definitely want to add these two to your collection. They're both truly superb. The G.I. Joe 12" DUSTY and LT. TORPEDO figures definitely have my highest, enthusiastic recommendation!